North Wales explored on latest CTA trip

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North Wales explored on latest CTA trip

Report by ATG Group Editor Mark Williams

The Coach Tourism Association’s (CTA) Spring Networking event in Llandudno, sponsored by Visit Wales, attracted 95 members including coach operators, wholesalers, and industry suppliers. Held from Sunday 21 to Monday 22 May, the programme included a fam trip, supplier showcase and networking, as well as a social media masterclass.

The purpose-built holiday town of Llandudno is already very well-known to operators but those who haven’t had it on an itinerary for a while may need reassurance that it is still among the finest of North Wales’ resorts.

Sitting in a bay guarded on each by the Great Orme and Little Orme – enormous outcrops of rock, whose name derives from the Viking for ‘monster’ – the grand project Lord Mostyn built on marshes is still among the best for catering for groups, with a huge central coach park just 15 minutes walk from the seafront and hotels such as the Imperial which provide a service tailored for coach parties.

The Imperial Hotel (, where the CTA has arranged accommodation, is excellent, retaining the same charm with which it was built. Rooms are spacious, the bar and restaurant excellent and it has a lovely sun terrace overlooking the beach. Our stay was faultless, and the food first class. The town has ample coffee bars and independent shops together with chain stores at Llandudno Retail Park.

Great Orme Explorer tickets are available from fellow coach operator Alpine Travel.

On our visit, we took in a run up the Great Orme on the Great Orme Explorer ( – an open-top Sprinter which not only snakes up the narrow roads which access the Great Orme to a summit which offers stunning views along the coast and back to Snowdonia but also visits the Penderyn Distillery on the return run.

The Penderyn Distillery ( is unique in distilling its whisky (it uses water from the Great Orme) with a Faraday Still, installed in the £5m conversion of the Old Board School building in Lloyd Street.

Penderyn Distillery

One-hour tours are limited to around 25 people at a time but the guiding is very entertaining; did you know that Penderyn employs female blenders because they have a better sense of taste? The distillery has a large shop with surprisingly reasonable prices for the craft whisky, gin, vodka and rum the company makes.

On our coach tour provided aboard Alpine Travel’s Elitei interdecker, lovingly nicknamed The Beast, took us to Plas Cadnant Hidden Garden ( – one of the most impressive and attractive gardens you are likely to find, and just a short hop away in Menai Bridge town.

Alpine Travels elitei coach provided the tour

Coach drivers should be advised to follow our driver Jason’s example and take the second signposted road to the garden to avoid an impossible turn. The road is narrow but coaches can travel right to the car park.

Plas Cadnant is owned by Anthony Taverner, who discovered the blueprint for the original garden, which had become invisible and overgrown, in 1996 and began restoring the original vision for it. The fabulous garden is on a steep slope, so some parts will be inaccessible to those with mobility issues.

Private group visits can be arranged and would be our top option. Groups of 30 can enjoy a private guided tour of the garden and light refreshments (we had them, and they were excellent) for £16.75 a head. There aren’t too many bargains in group tourism, but this is one. It’s an absolute ‘must’ for itineraries.

Our tour took in the National Slate Museum ( – a vast attraction in Padarn Country Park with plenty of free coach parking, a public loo and gift shops and a cafe. The museum is also free to enter, with daily demonstrations and tours.

The National Slate Museum

Another ‘must’ for North Wales itineraries. Jason then took The Beast up into Snowdonia and tackled Llanberis Pass, which is always a treat though requires some diligence to do safely.

The CTA event’s dinner was sponsored by Christmas in Birmingham (, which this year will follow the tradition of recreating a Frankfurt market in the city from 2 November to 24 December. It’s claimed to be the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Austria and Germany, with more than 50 stalls selling traditional toys, ornaments, arts and crafts. Soak up the festive atmosphere under the 65-foot Christmas tree whilst enjoying fine German fayre including hot Gluhwein, schnitzel, bratwurst and Stollen.

“CTA’s networking events are valuable to bring industry buyers and suppliers together. The participation of Christmas in Birmingham, presenting the city’s festive events, is a really effective way of attracting coach groups,” says Ben Hau, Tourism Officer, Birmingham City Council.

Visit Wales’ sponsorship of the event demonstrated the importance of coach tourism for Wales.

The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, Dawn Bowden MS, said: “We know from research that coach and group travel is important for Wales’s visitor economy. Using sustainable modes of transport, coach travel can also help us with our aim to encourage people to discover all parts of Wales, all year round. Together with the coach tourism industry, we can hopefully grow the numbers of day visits and holidays here throughout the year.”

“Support from Visit Wales and the venues on the fam trip showed how important coach tourism is to Wales. Enthusiasm for the event generated an attendance of nearly 100 members, and glorious sunshine demonstrated the very best of Snowdonia and the North Wales coast,” says CTA Chair, Robert Shaw. “The CTA Supplier Showcase created some very useful discussions to help grow business, and the social media masterclass from Sid Madge, held in response to member requests, was fully subscribed.”

The next CTA event is Hertfordshire’s CTA Summer Networking, taking place on Sunday 23 and Monday 24 July. To see details of all CTA’s forthcoming events, visit


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